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Review: Patriotic Kazakh drama ‘Road to Mother’ strong on earnestness and landscapes

Adil Akhmetov as Ilyas in a scene from “Road to Mother.” Credit: Milena Milena/World Wide Motion Pi
Adil Akhmetov in the movie “Road to Mother.”
(Milena Milena / World Wide Motion Pictures Corpo)

Commissioned by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Kazakhstan, “Road to Mother” begins with several minutes of titles giving an overview of the nation’s history over the centuries, going on for far longer than is typical — or necessary — but that comes to be the calling card of this earnest but plodding Kazakh drama. Producer Aliya Nazarbayeva is the daughter of the country’s lone former president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, and this film displays an unwavering patriotism fitting that pedigree.

Its story begins in 1922 with the birth of a fictional boy named Ilyas and follows him as a child, teen and adult. Bandits kidnap him from his small village as a child, and a grown-up Ilyas (Adil Akhmetov) spends his life trying to find his mother, Mariam (Altynai Nogherbek) and his childhood friend Oumit (Aruzhan Jazilbekova) amid the turmoil of World War II and Soviet rule.

“Road to Mother” may be pedagogic and overlong in its approach to Kazakhstan’s past, but it is effective in communicating the country’s history. Along with cinematographer Khasan Kydyraliyev, director Akan Satayev creates a beautiful look for the film that’s most striking in its landscape shots and battle scenes. This is largely a well-made movie from the technical perspective, but a stronger hand in the editing room would’ve made for a more watchable one.

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‘Road to Mother’

In Kazakh and Russian with English subtitles

Not rated

Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes

Playing: In limited release

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